TAMPA, Fla. — Shortly after Kirk Ferentz put his Iowa football team through a crisp, focused two-hour Outback Bowl practice Wednesday morning, Florida coach Jim McElwain praised the way the Hawkeyes typically go about things.
“This is one of those school that when you get an opportunity to play, you look forward to it because it’s a chance to test yourself against one of the most consistent programs in college football,’’ McElwain said during a joint news conference with Ferentz.
The Gators and Hawkeyes share 8-4 records as they prepare for Monday’s noon game at Raymond James Stadium, and McElwain said preparing for Iowa now isn’t all that different than it was when he worked as the assistant head coach, receivers coach and special teams coach on John L. Smith’s staff at Michigan State from 2003-05.
Florida’s second-year coach counts consistency and stability among the reasons the Hawkeyes have enjoyed sustained success throughout much of Ferentz’s 18-year tenure on the Iowa sideline.
“You set your sights on being like a team like Iowa,’’ McElwain said. “The consistency in which coach and his staff have had throughout the years is what you work toward.’’
The consistency, from McElwain’s perspective, leads to consistency in performance.
He said the defense Florida will face Monday is not unlike those he prepared for from Iowa when he was at Michigan State.
“We go back to when Norm Parker was the defensive coordinator there and the carryover with Phil (Parker, Iowa’s current defensive coordinator) is that they do a great job in not allowing explosive plays,’’ McElwain said.
“You know, when you do that, when you don’t let teams get into the end zone defensively, you give yourself a great opportunity to be successful and obviously in Iowa’s case that is why they have been successful for so many years.’’
McElwain coached against Iowa just twice at Michigan State, with each team winning at home.
He said he developed a respect for the way Iowa approached the game during that time.
“They’ve been good at what they do for a very long time,’’ McElwain said. “They’re at where we all want to be.’’
Ferentz expects to find out if that is the case Monday.
He likes the tone and tenor of Hawkeye practices as they work toward this year’s bowl.
The workouts have been shorter, more focused on the opponent and are more typical of late-season practices when teams traditionally spend fewer hours on the field.
“We tried to get the heavy lifting done at home and streamline things a little bit more here,’’ Ferentz said. “We’ll see how it turns out. Who knows?’’
Iowa arrived in Florida on Monday and like Tuesday’s practice, heat and humidity greeted the Hawkeyes when they took the practice field at the University of Tampa on Wednesday morning.
Ferentz believes the Hawkeyes are adjusting to the climate.
“You don’t want to get down here at the last minute because of the weather difference. They had a chance to sweat yesterday and sweat today,’’ Ferentz said. “Any time you go to a bowl site, the first couple days it’s usually not perfect, like coming back off a break. It never looks perfect the first couple of days getting back into it, but it’s fine once you get acclimated.’’